United States-North Korea: Promises Must Be Backed by Deeds

The US and North Korean leaders met in Singapore on June 12. Judging by media reports and the text of the joint statement, the meeting was a relative success.

US President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) agreed to establish new relations between their countries and to join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

US President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to North Korea, while Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The two leaders expressed the conviction that the establishment of new relations between their countries would contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognized that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Trump and Chairman Kim acknowledged that their summit – the first in history – was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future.

The US-North Korean summit can be described as relatively successful, and the two leaders signed a joint statement. But this is only the first step towards the establishment of new relations between the two countries. It follows from the joint statement that their agreement can be described as a framework document of symbolic political and diplomatic importance. The agreement to establish new relations is a serious gesture towards political cooperation.

Since North Korea has a nuclear capability, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will take both time and effort. In other words, the peninsula’s problems cannot be resolved at one summit meeting only. The US promise of security guarantees to North Korea is a very important commitment. However, how could such guarantees be provided, and how can this process be coordinated with North Korea’s denuclearization commitment? These matters need to be further coordinated and clarified.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is very complicated and highly specific. There are the remaining elements of a cold war and a host of post-war obstacles and institutional factors. The United States and North Korea thoroughly distrust each other, and this mistrust cannot be settled in one joint statement. It will take time, a series of meetings, talks and other contacts and processes, which can deviate or even double back. Working towards security, stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula really takes courage, wisdom as well as sincerity on both sides. In essence, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a major factor of international consensus. North Korea has joined the international consensus decision, which is evidence of Pyongyang’s pragmatic and diplomatic choice. But will the United States honor its security commitment? It is one more major element of a solution for this problem.

A settlement of the Korean problem would be impossible without the United States and North Korea sitting down together at the negotiating table to discuss the problem and work out solutions. At the same time, the problem cannot be solved without China and Russia as major political players. China and Russia, as constructive peacekeeping forces in Northeast Asia, can have a positive and strong constructive influence on the situation in Northeast Asia in general and on the Korean Peninsula in particular, encouraging their movement towards security, stability and development. In other words, the Korean problem should be tackled through the use of bilateral negotiating mechanisms, through multilateral negotiating mechanisms used in a restricted format, as well as through multilateral negotiating mechanisms used in an expanded format and through a system of communications.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.